Monday, September 26, 2011

Constitution Hall, 311 18th St., Washington, DC

 Capacity 3702

Constitution Hall was designed by prominent architect, John Russell Pope, and is a monumental Neoclassical design constructed of Alabama limestone. The building houses the largest auditorium in the District.
Ground was broken for DAR Constitution Hall on June 22, 1928.
The cornerstone was laid by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge on October 30, 1928, using the trowel George Washington used to lay the cornerstone at the Capital in 1793. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended events at DAR Constitution Hall.
In 1929, the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated this building as a memorial to the Constitution.

The first musical event in the hall was on November 2, 1929 and featured Thomas Edison's favorite singer Anna Case, Efrem Zimbalist, Sophie Braslau, and Hans Barth.

Anna Case, American soprano 192

Anna Case recorded with Thomas Alva Edison, who used her voice extensively in "tone tests" of whether a live audience could tell the difference between the actual singer and a recording. She also made recordings for Diamond Records, RCA Victor, Vitaphone, and Columbia Records.
She sang in the American premiere of Boris Gudonov in 1913 at the Metropolitan Opera.[1] She died on January 7, 1984 in New York City and left her 167.97-carat (33.59 g) Colombian emerald ring and Boucheron necklace to the Smithsonian Institution.[4]

Born in 1893, Zimbalist commenced to play the violin at the age of seven. After playing in his father’s orchestra, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he remained for six years under Leopold Auer, the teacher of Mischa Elman and Kathleen Parlow. At the conclusion of his studies he won a prize of 1200 roubles and a gold medal presented by the Russian Government. On this occasion his diploma was endorsed “Incomparable.” Zimbalist made his American d√©but in Boston, October 27, 1911 (The Etude, june 1912)

Sophie was a contralto prominent (the deepest female classical singing voice) in United States opera, starting with her debut in New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1913 when she was just 21 years of age.  Braslau was soon touring widely and frequently in the United States and Canada and, in the 1920s, Europe, using a repertoire which included works in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Yiddish.[1]
 She retired from her full-time opera career in the late 1920s and performed very little as frail health brought her life to an early close. At her funeral Sergei Rachmaninoff was an honorary pallbearer; the eulogy was delivered by Olin Downes, music critic for The New York Times.[2]

 The German-born American pianist, teacher and composer Hans Barth was born on 25 June 1897 in Leipzig. He studied, when still a child, on scholarship at the Leipzig Conservatory with Carl Reinecke. In 1907 he was taken to the USA and in 1908 he made his New York recital debut. In 1912 he became a naturalized American citizen.
He recorded the piano solo The Flatterer on 11/24/24 in Camden, New Jersey and it can be heard here:

Hans Barth's meeting with Ferruccio Busoni inspired him to experiment with new scales. With George Weitz, he perfected a portable quarter tone piano (1928).
In 1930 he played his own concerto for the quarter tone piano with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Charles Ives wrote music for Barth's concerts. Barth died in Jacksonville, Florida on 9 December 1956.

On August 12, 1932, President Herbert Hoover formally opened his campaign for reelection in the presence of 4,000 of his admirers tonight, with a demand that the regime of "subsidized crime and violence" bred by the Eighteenth Amendment give way to a system of State control of traffic in liquor. (she sun, essray,jf, 8/12/32)

The building was center of a Civil Rights crisis when use of the hall was denied to African American singer Marion Anderson in 1939. Back in the day on April 9th, 1939, African-American singer Marian Anderson, one of the most famous opera singers in the world, performed before 75,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The open-air event was not originally on Anderson’s schedule of appearances, but, instead, was organized after she was denied from singing at Washington D.C.’s Constitution Hall. The singer’s manager, Sol Hurok, had sought to book Anderson at the large venue, as her audience was growing ever larger. The Daughters of the American Revolution, who managed Constitution Hall, found out that Anderson was black, and refused to allow the show to happen. Shock and outrage followed. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the organization and Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes was persuaded to invite Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. (2010-04-09,subversivehistorian)(

Marion Anderson April 9, 1939

Bell Laboratories gave a demonstration of three-channel stereophonic sound on April 27, 1933, with a live transmission of the Philadelphia Orchestra from Philadelphia to Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Leopold Stokowski, normally the orchestra's conductor, was present in Constitution Hall to control the sound mix.

On May 10, 1935, the National Geographic Society welcomed Admiral Byrd and the men of the second Antartic Expedition. Admiral Byrd presented the expedition's accomplishments to the audience of 4000 members of the Society as well as to millions of radio listeners in the United States, Canada and South America. (paine,stuartD.L.,footsteps on the ice:antarctic diaries of stuart d. paine, secondbyrdexpedition)

One of Charlie Chaplin's first public addresses after the release of The Great Dictator was to read it's final speech in Washington DC, the evening before Roosevelt's third inauguration. Scheduled as one of a number of artists to perform at Constitution Hall. Chaplin arrived at Union Station the afternoon of January 19, 1941, to perform that evening. That evening, to a packed audience, Chaplin appeared with Nelson Eddy, Mickey Rooney, Raymond Massey, Ethel Barrymore, and others.
Later that year Chaplin read the speech again at Constitution Hall for a radio hookup.(maland,charles,chaplin and american culture:the evolution of a star image,p.187)

January 7, 1943, Marian Anderson sang at Constitution Hall and segregated seating was not in effect that night-a first for Washington, DC. (slavin,sarah, u.s. women's interest groups:institutional profiles,p.423)
Until the 1950s the Hall had a glass ceiling and a view of the stars.

In March 1956, Elvis Presley performed at the regularly booked Saturday afternoon country and western shows at Washington DC's Constitution Hall.
Elvis' most famous Washington performance was not musical. On the afternoon of December 21, 1970, a beginning-to-bloat Elvis unexpectadly appeared at the White House to offer his services as "Federal Agent At Large". Richard Nixon accepted his gift of a Colt .45 revolver, promised Elvis an honorary DEA badge, and sent him on his way.

Dick and Elvis December 21, 1970

On October 24, 19  , Marian Anderson returned for her Farewell Recital at Constitution Hall. It was an evening not only of musical importance but one also charged with emotional impact. The concluding portion of her performance comprised of several Negro spirituals. (lundstrom,harold,1965-02-18,thedeseretnews,p.21)

 Again, in 1967, citing the singer's strong antiwar stance, the Daughters Of The American Revolution (DAR) refused Joan Baez the permission to play at their Constitution Hall, resonating with their famous denial of the same privilege to Marian Anderson. When news of the refusal recieved sympathetic coverage in the press, Secretary of the Interior Mo Udall gave Baez permission to play an outdoor concert at the base of the Washington Monument, where an estimated 30,000 people came to hear her sing. (telgen,diane and kamp,jim,notable hispanic american women,issue68,p.44)

On January 28, 1968, Otis Redding performed there. (1967-09-16,washington afro-american,p.6)
 Soul singer Otis Redding had acquired his own plane to make touring less hectic, but the twin-engine Beechcraft H18 would prove his fatal undoing. At around 3:30 p.m. on a foggy Sunday afternoon, December 10, 1967, the plane, which encountered a storm en route from Cleveland to a concert in Madison, plunged into the frigid depths of Lake Monona. Redding, 26, and four members of his Bar-Kays band were killed. The musicians were headed to The Factory nightclub, scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m.
The crash killed six others, everyone on board except for trumpeter Ben Cauley (bassist James Alexander had luckily avoided the flight altogether). On the cusp of achieving pop superstardom, Redding, best known for his hit, “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” recorded just three days earlier and released after his death, was dead. The tune was Otis’ first posthumous release and his biggest-selling single ever, topping both the R&B and pop charts on its way to going gold. Engineers tastefully overdubbed the sound effects, the mournful cries of seagulls, the singer’s lonesome whistling, after Otis’ death.

About 4,500 mourners, including a dazzling array of soul giants such as James Brown, Solomon Burke, and Wilson Pickett, crowded Macon’s City Auditorium for Redding’s funeral, a week later.
On December 3, 1997, forty years later, hundreds of people showed up to the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center to honor the Georgia-born soul singer and songwriter. They’d never met the man, but they loved his music, and came to express their appreciation of the full impact of Otis Redding as a soul pioneer who inexorably altered the rhythm & blues landscape – and, ultimate, all of pop music- with his gritty, lustrous vocal, sexy, slinky lyrics and unforgettable songs.
Cauley, who hadn’t visited Madison since the crash, received a standing ovation. He told his audience how he’d awakened early that Sunday four decades ago and headed to the Cleveland airport for the trip to Madison. That day, he said, Redding told him he’d just finishing recording the supremely meditative “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” A few hours later, Cauley was flung out of the plane on impact. As he floated in the icy waters of Lake Monona, clinging to a cushion, he watched the rest of the plane’s passengers — including the man he once described as “…a groovy cat, like an older brother” — drowned.
When his short speech was finished, Cauley sang some of the songs that might have been on the bill at The Factory, including a trumpet-laced version of Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”
He was born in Dawson, Georgia, approximately 100 miles south of Macon, on Sept. 9, 1941. His family moved into a Macon housing project when Redding was three. He began singing in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Now home to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Macon is arguably the vital center of soul. Little Richard, James Brown and Otis Redding – three men who shaped American blues music in from the 1950s to the 1970s and beyond — all launched their careers here. Strangely, although he consistently impacted the R&B charts beginning with the Top Ten appearance of “Mr. Pitiful” in 1965, and he is remembered for producing some of the toughest, sweetest, most enduring soul music ever created, none of Redding’s singles fared better than #21 on the pop Top Forty.
There’s one noteworthy aspect to Redding’s life not often touched upon: No one has anything bad to say about him. No scandals lurking in the closet, no mouth-dropping incidents of rampant egotism to shatter his wholesome image, no shafting of his sidemen on long road jaunts. Just a monstrously talented soul man who enhanced the lives of everyone associated with him but died much too soon.
Heartbreak never sounded good. Or happened so abruptly. (Briam D'Ambrosio)
The day he died

Ray Charles and the Reagans Constitution Hall 1983

Jerry performed here on
11/2/75 Jerry Garcia Band
11/27/83 Jerry Garcia Band
8/8/84 Jerry Garcia Band
11/20/84 John Kahn (acoustic)
1/24/86 John Kahn (acoustic)

1.)^Maland,Charles, Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image, pg. 187.
2.)^Slavin,Sarah, U.S. Women's Interest Groups:Institutional Profiles,pg.423.
3.)^Subversive Historian, 2010-04-09,
4.)^Paine, Stuart D.L., Footsteps On The Ice: Antarctic Diaries of Stuart D. Paine, Second Byrd Expedition.
5.)^Lundstrom,Harold, 1965-02-18, The Deseret News,pg.21.
6.)^Telgen,Diane and Kamp, Jim, Notable Hispanic American Women, Issue68, pg.44.
7.)^Washington Afro-american, 1967-09-16,pg.6.
8.)^Arsenault, Raymond, The Sound Of Freedom.

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